June 30, 2012

1 - Termites do exist in New Mexico gardens and homes need to be inspected periodically.

Yard and Garden June 30, 2012


I live in Albuquerque and moved into a house this spring and started a little garden in our backyard. I had some leftover green onion that I decided to plant in the garden next to my red onions. When I dug into my garden which I have amended with compost and garden soil, between two of my red onions, I found a big cluster of white larvae. At first I thought they were June bug larvae but they are not c-shaped and they have plainly visible antennae when observed up close. I noticed they are gravitating toward the compost and I have only found them in that one spot between the red onions. I have dug into other places and cannot find any more. Here are the best photos I could get. They are so tiny my camera was having issues taking close ups. When I gathered some to take pictures of, I noticed a black and red predatory stink bug so I let him be for now in case he is feeding on them. I am not quite sure what to do about these larvae or the steps to get rid of them/control them organically. HELP!

Jessica W.


I am somewhat reluctant to try to identify these insects because the pictures are not clear, but they appear to be termite workers. They can often be found in our soil in New Mexico feeding on decaying organic matter. I suggest you take a sample to your local NMSU Cooperative Extension Service office. The Extension Service agent can positively identify the insects and advise you. If these are termites, you may want to verify that you do not have a problem with them attacking wood in your house. However, just because they are in the landscape does not mean you have a problem with your house.

Follow-up: Jessica did take these to a garden center and they were confirmed to be termites. Yes, termites do exist in New Mexico! When you find them in the garden, it is important to conduct regular inspections of your house and other structures containing wood and other cellulose (paper on wall board, etc.) to identify problems before major damage occurs. Inspect the crawl space and areas with water (bathroom, utility room, and kitchen), looking for mud tunnels that termites construct to prevent exposure to open, dry air. If you find such evidence of termites in your home, contact a reputable pest control company to treat your house. Many pest control companies will do free, or inexpensive, inspections and give you a proposed plan of treatment. It is good to ask several companies for inspection and their treatment plan. Termites in the landscape, far from the house as in Jessica's case, may not be a problem, but infestation in the house can be a significant problem.

For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension publications Web site at http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h, or to read past articles of Yard and Garden go to http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/periodicals.html

Send your gardening questions to:

Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Curtis Smith
NMSU Agricultural Science Center
1036 Miller Rd.
SW, Los Lunas, NM 87031.

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist emeritus with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.